The novel coronavirus has infected more than 60 million people and cut short over 1.4 million lives. Here are the updates for November 26:

A man handles culled mink at the farm of Henrik Nordgaard Hansen and Ann-Mona Kulsoe Larsen near Naestved, Denmark, November 6, 2020.
A man handles culled mink at the farm of Henrik Nordgaard Hansen and Ann-Mona Kulsoe Larsen near Naestved, Denmark, November 6, 2020. (Reuters)

November 26, 2020

Tens of millions set for strictest curbs when England lockdown ends

More than 23 million people will be under the tightest restrictions once England's nationwide lockdown ends next week, but London will escape the toughest rules, the government said.

England will return to a regional tiered system when the national stay-at-home order ends on December 2, and 23.3 million residents in the worst-hit areas are set to enter the "very high" alert level.

They include the major cities of Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield, with people there facing at least two weeks in the top tier.

The toughest restrictions, which were in place before the shutdown, but only for 8.6 million people, will compound difficulties for already struggling businesses, with hospitality and leisure facilities to remain closed.

However, more than half of the country including the capital will enter into tier two, which permits restaurants and many leisure facilities to reopen.

For the first time since March, limited public attendance at performances and sporting events will also be allowed.

People from different households may not mix indoors in either tiers.

The government announced earlier this week that restrictions would be eased for five days around Christmas.

New infections, hospitalisations decline again in France

France reported 13,563 new infections, compared with 16,282 on Wednesday and 21,150 a week ago, suggesting the spread of the virus continued to slow in the fourth week of a national lockdown.

The number of people hospitalised continued falling by a further 662 to 29,310, while the number of people in intensive care fell by 130 to 4,018, continuing a trend dating back two weeks, health ministry data showed. 

WHO's Ryan sees progressive control of Covid-19 in 2021, cautions on Christmas

The World Health Organization's top emergency expert said the introduction of a vaccine should allow the world to gain progressive control over the disease next year.

"Life as we used to know it, I think that's very, very possible but we will have to continue with the hygiene, physical distancing. Vaccines do not equal zero Covid. Adding vaccines to our current measures will allow us to really crush the curve, avoid lockdowns and gain progressive control over the disease," Mike Ryan told RTE television in his native Ireland.

"We need to be absolutely aware that we need to reduce the chance that we could infect someone else in just organising households carefully around the Christmas festivities. The usual thing in Ireland of 15 people in the kitchen peeling potatoes and basting turkeys, that's not what we should be doing." 

England adds Estonia, Latvia to quarantine list, lifts travel ban on Denmark

England added Estonia and Latvia to its traveller quarantine list, meaning that from November 28 people arriving from those two countries will be required to self-isolate for 14 days, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said.

Shapps also said that a total travel ban on Denmark, announced on November 7 in response to concerns over outbreaks of coronavirus on Danish mink farms, would be lifted on November 28. However, Denmark will remain on the quarantine list.

The minister said Bhutan, Timor-Leste, Mongolia, Aruba and several Pacific island nations had been added to the safe travel list, meaning that people arriving from those countries from November 28 will no longer need to self-isolate.

A new quarantine regime is due to come into force on December 15. From that date, people arriving from quarantine list countries will have to self-isolate for five days, at which point they will have the option to take a Covid test. If the result is negative, they will be released from self-isolation. 

Africa lacks preparedness for virus vaccine roll-out : WHO

The WHO urged African countries to improve their capacity to vaccinate populations against Covid-19, warning the continent was still "far from ready" for mass immunisation.

With three coronavirus vaccines now showing efficacy rates of 70 percent or more, the UN body called on Africa to "ramp up" preparations for "the continent's largest ever immunisation drive".

The African region is so far only 33 percent ready to roll out Covid-19 vaccines, the WHO said in a statement.

That figure, based on data provided by 40 countries on a series of "readiness criteria", is well below a desired 80 percent benchmark.

The WHO estimates that rolling out a Covid-19 vaccine to just priority populations in Africa will cost around $5.7 billion (4.8 billion euros).

African countries will be partially subsidised by the COVAX global Covid-19 distribution scheme.

The World Bank has also set aside $12 billion (10.1 billion euros) to help developing countries finance their immunisation programs.

Lithuania finds its first cases in mink

Lithuania's health agency said it had found the first cases of coronavirus among its mink, as 22 dead mink on a farm in central Lithuania tested positive.

The tests at the 60,000-strong mink farm started after minks began dying unexpectedly, and the farm now suspects the mink got the virus from an infected worker, its director told local media.

Lithuania has 1.6 million mink on 86 farms, she added.

Denmark said last week a new, mutated strain of the coronavirus stemming from mink farms in the country was "most likely" extinct.

All farmed minks in Denmark have been culled because of coronavirus outbreaks among the animals and the discovery of the mutated strain, which authorities said showed reduced sensitivity to antibodies, has caused fears it could compromise vaccines.

Lithuania's mink herd is vastly smaller than Denmark's, which was one the world's biggest.

France and Poland have found the first cases in their mink over the past week. 

Turkey records highest new death toll for fourth consecutive day

Turkey's daily number of deaths hit a record high for a fourth consecutive day with 174 in the past 24 hours, data from the Health Ministry showed, and it also reported the highest number of new daily infections yet.

Data showed that Turkey recorded 29,132 cases, including asymptomatic ones. From July until Wednesday, Ankara had only reported symptomatic cases, of which there were 6,876 on Thursday, raising the total number to 474,606. The total number of deaths stood at 13,014.

Thursday's new case tally was also the highest daily number reported since the beginning of the pandemic but historical data and the cumulative number of all cases is still not available. 

AstraZeneca CEO says co likely to run new global trial

AstraZeneca Plc is likely to run an additional global trial to assess the efficacy of its vaccine, according to the company's Chief Executive Pascal Soriot, Bloomberg News reported.

Instead of adding the trial arm to an ongoing US process, a new trial would be run to evaluate a lower dosage that performed better than a full amount in AstraZeneca's studies, the report said.

AstraZeneca is facing tricky questions about its success rate that some experts say could hinder its chances of getting speedy US and EU regulatory approval.

Several scientists have raised doubts about the robustness of results showing the shot was 90 percent effective in a subgroup of trial participants who, by error initially, received a half dose followed by a full dose. 

Sweden expects to reach virus peak in mid-December

Swedish health officials said they expected the country to reach the peak of the second wave of Covid-19 infections the country is experiencing in the middle of December.

The assessment was based on new modelling by the country's Public Health Agency, based on reported cases up until November 6.

After seeing a heavy death toll from March to June, over 5,000 in a country of 10.3 million inhabitants, Sweden, which famously has elected to curb the virus with mostly non-coercive measures, registered a decrease in both cases and fatalities between July and mid-October.

Since then, the number of cases has soared and in recent weeks the number of deaths has also risen sharply.

On Thursday the country reported another 67 deaths linked to Covid-19, bringing the total to 6,622.

In response to the surge, Sweden has issued stricter recommendations for heavily hit areas.

Confirmed cases in Netherlands pass 500,000

The Netherlands reached over half a million in total cases, with 503,123 confirmed infections, data released showed.

The daily tally of new infections in 24 hours was 4,470 which was a slight drop from a day earlier in the country, one of the worst hit in Europe's second wave.

Moscow awaits large supplies of vaccine for mass vaccination

Moscow is ready for a mass vaccination and is currently awaiting large supplies of vaccine, its Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said.

Sobyanin said there were no plans to put Moscow under lockdown even though Russia has been reporting record high numbers of new coronavirus infections and deaths in the past few weeks.

Russia says its Sputnik V vaccine is 92 percent effective at protecting people from Covid-19, as Moscow rushes to keep pace with Western drugmakers in the race for an effective vaccine.

Berlin plans six vast vaccination centres handling 4,000 people a day

Berlin is racing to open six mass vaccination centres capable of handling up to 4,000 people per day by mid-December, the project coordinator told Reuters, as the city waits for authorities to approve the first vaccines.

An empty trade fair hall, two airport terminals, a concert arena, a velodrome and an ice rink will be turned into six vaccination centres where it plans to administer up to 900,000 shots against the coronavirus in the first three months.

Germany appears to be the furthest ahead of European nations in its planning for the daunting logistical and administrative challenge that could be just a few weeks away if the first vaccines gain approval.

Europe's drug watchdog expects to receive the first application for conditional marketing approval for a vaccine "in the coming days", it said, the latest step towards making a shot available outside the United States.

Broemme said Berlin is working on the assumption that around 80 percent of its doses in the first instance will come from Pfizer /BioNTech with the remaining 20 percent of the doses from AstraZeneca.

Croatia shuts cafes, halts weddings as cases surge

Croatia will close cafes and restaurants and ban weddings until Christmas as the number of coronavirus cases hit a record high for the second day in a row, the government said.

The country of four million reported 4,009 new cases and 51 deaths, with 21,725 active cases.

A new set of measures, including restricting outdoor and public gatherings to 25 people and private parties to 10, will come into effect on Saturday and last at least until December 21, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said.

Usable space on public transport will be restricted to 40 percent, bakeries will have to close by 10 pm, cafes and restaurants will be closed for guests while restaurants will be allowed to prepare and deliver food.

Swiss ski resorts can stay open for now

Swiss ski resorts can stay open for now as long as they have strict safety measures in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus, Health Minister Alain Berset said.

Neighbours France, Italy, Austria and Germany have all ordered even the high-altitude lifts that could be running this early in the winter to remain closed in the hope that all resorts can benefit at peak-season, if and when the infection rate slows.

He left the door open to change policy should conditions change by the year's end, when the two-week holiday period lures many winter sports enthusiasts to the slopes.

Switzerland has adopted a "middle path" to curb the pandemic that has infected more than 300,000 and killed 4,109 here, leaving the nation largely open for business while urging people to keep their distance and embrace proper hygiene.

Berset said Switzerland could get the first, limited supply of vaccines by the end of January if all went well. It would not force people to get vaccines, which it plans to distribute to patients free of charge.

Britain records 17,555 new cases, 498 new deaths

Britain recorded 17,555 new cases and 498 new deaths within 28 days of a positive test, official data showed.

Both measures were lower than on Wednesday, when there were 18,213 new infections and 696 deaths.

Italy reports 29,003 new cases, 822 deaths

Italy reported 822 deaths, up from 722 the day before, and 29,003 new infections, up from 25,853 on Wednesday, the health ministry said.

There were 232,711 swabs carried out in the past day, compared with a previous 230,007.

Italy was the first Western country to be hit by the virus and has seen 52,850 fatalities since its outbreak emerged in February, the second highest toll in Europe after Britain's. It has also registered 1.510 million cases.

While Italy's daily death tolls have been amongst the highest in Europe over recent days, the rise in hospital admissions and intensive care occupancy has slowed, suggesting the latest wave of infections was receding.

The number of people in hospital stood at 34,038 on Thursday, a decline of 275 from the day before.

The number in intensive care decreased by two, following an increase of 32 on Wednesday, and now stands at 3,846.

When Italy's second wave of the epidemic was accelerating fast in the first half of November, hospital admissions were rising by around 1,000 per day, while intensive care occupancy was increasing by about 100 per day.

The northern region of Lombardy, centred on Italy's financial capital Milan, remained the hardest hit area on Thursday, reporting 5,697 new cases. 

Merkel urges patience

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged the people to remain patient with restrictions meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus, saying that with promising vaccines on the way, “there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Germany embarked on a so-called wave-breaker shutdown on November 2, closing restaurants, bars, sports and leisure facilities but leaving schools, shops and hair salons open.

It was initially slated to last four weeks but Merkel and the country’s 16 state governors agreed to extend it through December 20 with a goal of pushing the number of new coronavirus cases in each region below 50 per 100,000 inhabitants per week.

“The winter will be difficult,” Merkel told lawmakers.

High court blocks NY restrictions on houses of worship

As coronavirus cases surge again nationwide the Supreme Court has barred New York from enforcing certain limits on attendance at churches and synagogues in areas designated as hard hit by the virus.

The justices split 5-4 with new Justice Amy Coney Barrett in the majority that was the conservative’s first publicly discernible vote as a justice. 

The move was a shift for the court. Earlier this year, when Barrett’s liberal predecessor, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was still on the court, the justices divided 5-4 to leave in place pandemic-related capacity restrictions affecting churches in California and Nevada.

EU drugs watchdog expects first vaccine application in days

Europe's drugs watchdog has said that it expects to receive the first application for conditional marketing approval for a Covid-19 vaccine "in the coming days", the latest step towards making a shot available outside the United States.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) did not name the company it expects to file the application, but Pfizer Inc and BioNTech are the most advanced in the regulatory process among the three companies that have published late-stage trial data for their vaccines.

Hungary shuns further restrictions despite rising cases 

Hungary plans no further restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus, Prime Minister Viktor Orban's chief of staff, Gergely Gulyas said, even as health officials reported a steady rise in new cases and the number of deaths.

Gulyas told a press briefing that the government would look at infections data next week again to review its decisions.

Poland launches new Covid-19 economic aid programme

Poland is introducing a new programme to help the economy withstand the hit from the coronavirus pandemic worth $9.3 billion to $10.6 billion, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announces.

France confirms vaccination could start by end of 2020

French Health Minister Oliver Veran has confirmed that France could start rolling out Covid-19 vaccines by the end of the year, stressing the need for authorities to be transparent about the process given French citizens' high level of scepticism towards vaccinations.

During a news conference detailing how France's second national lockdown is about to be gradually unwound, Veran said the logistical aspects of the vaccination program will be detailed next week. 

Greece extends nationwide coronavirus lockdown

Greece will extend its nationwide lockdown until December 7 as Covid-19 cases continued to surge across the country, government spokesman Stelios Petsas said.

Greece has registered a total of 97,288 Covid-19 cases and 1,902 deaths, with the hardest hit area being northern Greece. Hospitals are operating at almost full capacity, according to health ministry data.

London to be placed in 'second highest Covid risk' category

London will be placed into the second highest risk category when a national lockdown ends on December 2, according to a government website which allows residents to check the rules which will apply to them.

The postcode checker website was briefly available on a government website before the official announcement due to be made by health minister Matt Hancock in parliament. 

Russia reports record highs of 25,487 new cases, 524 deaths

Russia has reported a record high of 25,487 new infections, bringing the national tally to 2,187,990.

Authorities also reported a record high of 524 deaths related to in the last 24 hours, pushing the official death toll to 38,062. 

Moscow extends self-isolation period until January 15

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has extended a recommended self-isolation period for residents older than 65 and those risk groups through New Year until January 15 as a precaution against the coronavirus pandemic.

Virus cases have surged nationwide since September, but authorities have resisted imposing a stringent lockdown, saying that targeted measures should be enough.

Sobyanin also said at least that 30 percent of staff at companies in the capital who had already been told to work remotely as a precaution should continue to do so until Jan. 15.

Moscow, a bustling city of more than 12.5 million people, reports thousands of new coronavirus cases on a daily basis. 

Sudan's Mahdi dies

Leading Sudanese politician and former prime minister Sadiq Al Mahdi has died in hospital in the United Arab Emirates after being infected with coronavirus, family sources said early on Thursday.

Mahdi, 84, was Sudan's last democratically elected prime minister and was overthrown in 1989 in the military coup that brought former president Omar Al Bashir to power.

Ukraine confirms record daily high of 15,331 new cases

Ukraine has registered a record 15,331 new cases in the past 24 hours, health minister Maksym Stepanov said, up from a previous record of 14,580 reported on November 21.

He said the total number of cases had climbed to 677,189, with 11,717 deaths. 

India records 44,489 new cases

India has recorded 44,489 new infections, data from the health ministry showed, the 19th straight day that single-day cases have stayed below the 50,000 mark.

India's tally now stands at 9.27 million, the second-highest in the world, after the United States.

Deaths rose by 524, taking the total to 135,223.

Six Pakistan cricketers positive in New Zealand

Six of Pakistan's squad have tested positive, hosts New Zealand Cricket said Thursday, throwing preparations for their five-match tour into turmoil and causing a scare in a country that has largely eradicated the virus.

The squad's "exemption to train while in managed isolation has been put on hold until investigations have been completed", the governing body said, adding that the six positive players would be moved into strict quarantine.

New Zealand's ministry of health said 53 team members passed a symptom check before leaving Lahore and were tested on arrival in Christchurch on November 24.

Six of those results have come back positive, although two of the six cases are believed to be "historical".

Germany extends restrictions until December 20

Germany has extended coronavirus restrictions until December 20 as it struggles to contain a second wave of the pandemic.

Chancellor Angela Merkel made the announcement after a meeting with the country’s 16 state governors via videoconference.

Merkel said the restrictions could be extended until the beginning of January if necessary.

She called on citizens to follow hygiene and social distancing rules, avoid unnecessary contact with others and to stay at home as much as possible.

South Korea cases jump over 500 amid reimposed rules

South Korea has recorded more than 500 new coronavirus cases for the first time in about eight months.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said Thursday the 583 additional cases in the past 24 hours took the national tally to 32,318 including 515 deaths.

South Korea has been experiencing a spike in new infections since it relaxed stringent social distancing rules last month. To deal with the latest resurgence, the country on Tuesday reimposed tough distancing guidelines in Seoul and some other areas.

Government records show that 402 of the 583 newly reported cases were found in the Seoul metropolitan area, where half of the country’s 51 million people resides.

Germany's confirmed cases rise by 22,268 - RKI

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany has increased by 22,268 to 983,588, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed. 

The reported death toll rose by 389 to 15,160, the tally showed.

Mexico sees over 850 fatalities

Mexico's health ministry has reported 10,335 additional cases of the novel coronavirus and 858 more deaths in the country, bringing the official number of infections to 1,070,487 and the death toll to 103,597.

Brazil adds over 650 deaths

Brazil has reported 47,898 new cases of the coronavirus and 654 additional deaths over the past 24 hours, the country's health ministry said.

South Korea adds 500 new cases

South Korea has reported 500 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, the highest since March, the Yonhap news agency said citing Health Minister Park Neung-hoo.

Germany to extend partial lockdown until Dec 20

Germany will extend restrictive measures imposed early this month under a month-long "lockdown light" to slow the spread of the coronavirus until December 20, Chancellor Angela Merkel said.

"The exponential growth of infection numbers has been broken, the steep curve has become a flattened curve," Merkel said after talks with leaders of Germany's federal states on Wednesday.

"But infection numbers remain at a level that is far too high. The situation doesn't allow us to lift the measures agreed for November."

AstraZeneca admits manufacturing error

AstraZeneca and Oxford University have acknowledged a manufacturing error that is raising questions about preliminary results of their experimental Covid-19 vaccine.

A statement describing the error came days after the company and the university described the shots as “highly effective” and made no mention of why some study participants didn't receive as much vaccine in the first of two shots as expected.

In a surprise, the group of volunteers that got a lower dose seemed to be much better protected than the volunteers who got two full doses. In the low-dose group, AstraZeneca said, the vaccine appeared to be 90 percent effective. 

In the group that got two full doses, the vaccine appeared to be 62 percent effective. Combined, the drug makers said the vaccine appeared to be 70 percent effective. But the way in which the results were arrived at and reported by the companies has led to pointed questions from experts.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies